Magazine article New African

Swaziland Key to Rapid African Economic Unity

Magazine article New African

Swaziland Key to Rapid African Economic Unity

Article excerpt

As host of the 14th COMESA Heads of State and Government summit, Swaziland, as is customary, is expected to assume Chairmanship of the 19-member economic and trade regional organisation.

COMESA member states form an axis stretching from Libya in the north, through Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the centre, to Kenya and Tanzania to the East and finally to Zambia and Swaziland in the south. (See opening page for full list of all COMESA member states.)

To place COMESA in its global and continental perspective: it is larger in area terms than Europe, Australia and the US. It has a population of 400m people (accounting for 45% of Africa's population); it has a GDP of $446bn (accounting for 37.6% of Africa's GDP); it accounts for $21.8bn in Foreign Direct Investment flows (38% of Africa's total FDI flows); intra-COMESA trade is valued at $13-5bn; exrra-COMESA exports are valued at $46.6bn and the total trade volumes in the block are valued at $16obn.

Swaziland is in the unique position of hosting this powerful economic bloc for the second time. His Majesty, King Mswati III hosted the Preferential Trade Area PTA (the precursor to COMESA) Summit in 1990 and became the longest-serving Chairperson of the Summit from 1990-1992 before its transformation.

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During this period, the King travelled to the European Union and the United States of America, and strongly promoted the organisation before it had secured any major developmental partner.

Swaziland's chairmanship of the regional organisation comes at a particularly critical period in the economic development of the continent. Africa's growth, despite the global recession, has been impressive and the continent is expected to regain its upward growth curve over the next years. Stronger regional ties and increased intra-African trade through regional organisations have been a major factor in Africa's growth.

Swaziland's chairmanship of COMESA will add another dimension to regional integration. COMESA's Secretary-General, Sindiso Ngwenya, says, "Once Swaziland takes over the chairmanship, other countries that have relationships with the Kingdom of Swaziland may negotiate for a single Free Trade Area involving COMESA, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC)." Given this factor, he says, "There is no country better placed than Swaziland at this critical period to fast-track the unification of the African Economic Community. …

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